The Truth About Suburban Buck Core Areas


buck core areas

You can find a great deal of sound and well-researched facts about whitetail behavior from mainstream hunting media. For example, the industry generally agrees that the “core area” of a whitetail buck remains about one square mile for their entire life. I don’t intend to debate this theory, since it’s important for rural areas.

But that figure is only true for whitetail bucks living in a consistent environment with normal rutting behavior and uninterrupted behavioral patterns. For myself and millions of other deer hunters in North America, the suburban and urban environments we hunt in are none of these things. As a result, deer behavior can change drastically for us. Whitetail bucks still have the desire to maintain habitual lifestyles in suburban environments, but have a much harder time doing so.

Like most subjects covered in The Urban Deer Complex, application can always complicate theory. In the case of urban environments, core areas can shrink, grow, or change. This adds to the already difficult skill of patterning a mature whitetail.

In The Urban Deer Complex, I explain the three distinct personalities mature suburban bucks develop over time. My favorite personality type is “The Pocket Ghost.” These deer use a small suburban pocket of woods as their primary buck core area. And they really are ghosts, limiting their movement to just the darkness, since their regular core area consists of people’s yards and other human developments.

This article cannot help you perfect advanced tactics on such a whitetail or the more regularly patterned buck, “The Swamp Monster.” My book on suburban hunting can if you need it. Instead, this article is meant to bring one of the most frustrating facts about urban deer hunting to light—the rut.

As we all might know, the rut is a frenzy of reckless deer behavior marked by a consistency devoid of apparent cause. Many of us welcome the window of opportunity provided by the daylight mistakes of bucks. That might be all fun and good (and require a lot of luck). The tragic and frustrating result is a vicious, unforgiving late season.

After the dust settles—the random chases, mating frenzies, breeding—deer return to their core area. Unfortunately for mature bucks in suburban America, joyous mating rites are replaced with a nightmare. The highway they bounded across, the parking lot they ran circles in, and the schoolyard they passed through now pose an impossible challenge.

The fogged mindset of the rut disappears and the now levelheaded buck cannot simply waltz back to its bedding area. What may be a simple one mile trek for a rural giant has become a gauntlet for your suburban crush. This is why theories based on bucks returning to core areas are rendered useless. Above all, it creates a frustration far too many suburban deer hunters face in the winter. Their well patterned buck may not return until after the season or it may have found an entirely new area, never to return.

This is the truth about suburban buck core areas and you have to consider it when planning to hunt your buck of a lifetime. I often hunt the early season more aggressively when presented with this potential doom. There is always the long shot of a late season redemption if I need it.

I would love to hear your experience with any of these core area changes, so leave comments below!

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Last modified: July 31, 2018

5 Responses

  1. Austin Brown says:

    Very Cool idea! Love the layout and everything associated with it.. I just found your page a few weeks ago..

    these are some of the hunts we filmed.. We mainly just hunt urban deer before duck season starts.. And I do believe it is much different from hunting a deer in a “uncivilized area”


  2. Ryan curran says:

    I based my whole hunting season on your book ! And it payed off for me ! I am located in nj and all the big bucks are hiding in the houses ! I met you in Edison at the outdoorsman show to purchase another book for a buddy ! I highly recommend this book for all hunters ! Thanks for opening my eyes !

  3. Dan Williams says:

    I arrowed a 9 pointer on opening morning of NH’s archery season (Sept. 15th) two years ago. He field dressed 150 lbs and was traveling with a true “Monster buck” that was well over 200 lbs. Never had an ethical shot at him so I took the 9 ptr at 9 yards. Both bucks were in velvet. The “Monster” circled around downwind of me after I arrowed the 9 ptr and winded me. I heard him snorting several times. I did not get a complete passthrough because of the angle and so I left the deer for a few hours. When I came back he was stone cold dead and stiff about 70 yards away – ample time for the “Monster” to put two and two together. I’d been following these two bucks for 2 years and had managed to “figure out” their pattern. After arrowing this buck I left this spot alone the rest of the season because I had other areas to hunt and after harvesting one of these bucks I wanted to leave the other one alone. I fully expected him to survive another season on one of two tracts of posted land on either side of the property I hunted – as he’d done for the past two years. By season’s end I’d not heard of anyone harvesting him. This spring I resumed trail camming and scouting and quickly realized he was no where to be found. It could be that he was hit by a car – or succumbed to starvation/coyotes in the winter. Although I suspect that a more plausible reason for his absence was the fact that he witnessed his buddy get killed right in their core area and decided to either relocate his home range to the posted land full-time or moved to another core area.

  4. Mike K. says:

    I’ve been tryinging to pattern a 12 pointer for two years now. He only makes his appearance around 10/28-11/3 each year on camera. He’s a neighborhood monster, and I haven’t seen him any other time in the year. Thanks for the good read.

  5. paul z says:

    ive been hunting a small back yard (5acres?) for the past few years and I”m always shocked at what I jump as I walk to my stand. I hunt for the freezer so a fat doe will often do me just fine but I’m waiting on a monster to come running after those does. A few scrapes tell me they’re there but I’ve seen nothing with my own two eyes. wish me luck this season. I”m a big fan of your articles, btw.

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